We wanted answers about Common Core, not a sales pitch

To the Editor:

After attending a meeting on Common Core at Souhegan High School on Nov. 6, we have to admit that we were deeply disappointed in the presentation.

We expected to hear what was good about the Common Core standards, what the problems were and how our district was going to implement them. We were subjected to a “sales pitch” on Common Core.

How can parents possibly decide on whether or not this is good for their children when so much expert critical analysis was never presented?

We were told how our children would be assessed on not just their knowledge through standardized testing, but on their behaviors as well. How will that be assessed?

They mentioned how memorization will be de-emphasized, but there is a body of academic content that must still be learned, mastered and yes, memorized. Memorizing math facts for instance is a huge benefit to the child who moves on to Algebra concepts.

The assessment specialist, Scott Marion has made disparaging remarks toward parents who have questioned Common Core standards. This is evidenced by a comment he made in the following blog: http://anhpe.org/2013/09/19/the-
common-core-money-war-politico/comment-page-1
.

“Even though I see these debates first-hand, especially considering how much time I spend in the Mountain West, I still can’t understand why these Beck-inspired believers don’t want their kids to learn more meaningful content and skills than they are now. Unless of course, some people don’t want students to learn how to think critically, but why would they?”

Two academic experts, who were originally working on the creation of these standards, later refused to sign off on the math and English standards as presented. Both have cited flaws in the standards, including that our children will be two years behind their international peers in mathematics and that these standards will not adequately prepare students for university programs in the STEM fields (science technology, engineering and mathematics).

Scott Marion stated that he was unaware of the 400 data points that so many parents are concerned about. These data points are accessible throughout the Internet, including the U.S. Department of Education’s website: http://nces.ed.gov/forum/data
model/eiebrowser/tech
view.aspx?instance=studentElementarySecondary
.
Why isn’t an “expert” fully aware of what is on the U.S. Department of Education’s website?

Marion said not to worry about data being collected on your children because schools have been doing that for years. He even cited the FERPA law as a privacy protection. What he failed to mention was that in 2011, the regulations protecting that privacy were changed (Common Core state standard initiatives began in 2010). Information collected on children and their families for non-academic purposes can now be released to third parties. And this data can be collected and sold without first obtaining written parental consent.

On Feb. 14, a report “Promoting Grit, Tenacity and Perseverance,” the Department of Education openly promotes schools collecting data about students’ personalities and beliefs. This document promotes the use of facial expression cameras, posture analysis seats, wireless skin conductance sensors and other measures of students’ beliefs and emotions (see page 44).

On Oct. 22, Democratic U.S. Sen. Ed Markey from Massachusetts, understanding the huge concern from parents, sent a letter to Arne Duncan, secretary of the U.S. DOE. He questioned the DOE regarding the privacy of students. The letter can be found on the “Whatiscommoncore.word
press.com” website.

As taxpayers and parents, we expect more from the individuals working in this district and encourage the elected board members to start representing the people who elect them. We deserved better than what was presented at Souhegan on Nov. 6. The parents of Amherst and Mont Vernon students are looking for honesty and transparency from our school district administration, not a sales pitch.

JEFFREY and
PAULA-MARIE PASSEN

Amherst